- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Legislation pending in Congress would grant federal recognition to Virginia's Indian tribes, but the measure faces opposition from lawmakers worried about casinos.

Eight Indian tribes the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock and Monacan have recognition from the state but not the federal government. There are two reservations in the state, belonging to the Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes.

Mary Wade, a Monacan Indian and secretary of the Virginia Council on Indians, said federal recognition would make it easier to obtain grants from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

"It's the right thing to do," she said in Springfield yesterday. "This is where the country started. These are the people who met the first settlers" at Jamestown in 1607.

Rep. James P. Moran, 8th District Democrat, introduced the bill last month. Mr. Moran was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, 10th District Republican, opposes the bill, saying it opens the door to Indian-run casinos.

"Mr. Wolf has been supportive of the tribes … but the people of Virginia don't want gambling," said Rosanne Dupras, Mr. Wolf's press secretary.

Miss Wade said the state's Indian tribes have no intention of building casinos.

"If the tribes wanted to have gambling, they could have done bingo. But bingo was actually turned down," she said. Tribe members "just don't believe in gambling."

She finds it insulting that the gambling issue is offered as a reason to refuse federal recognition, and that some are seeking a written guarantee that the tribe would never open a casino.

"It's like a slap in the face," she said. "Can Virginia promise us that they will never have [casino] gaming? I don't think they can do that."

The question of whether an Indian tribe could use federal recognition to open a casino without the state's approval is a murky one. Generally, a compact between the tribe and state would be required to allow casinos. But there are circumstances under which the Department of Interior can grant a casino license to a tribe without state approval, according to a Congressional Research Service memo prepared at Mr. Wolf's request.

In addition to Mr. Wolf, Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, has expressed gambling-related concerns about the bill. Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat, has not announced a position on it, said Press Secretary Wendy Frankson.

Former Gov. George F. Allen, who is seeking Mr. Robb's Senate seat, supports the bill as long as it does not infringe on the state's right to regulate gambling, said campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

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